Area kayaker makes U.S. freestyle team
Carbondale’s Hanna Farrar flipped over her kayak and let the cool Ottawa River water rush over her head.Just moments after failing to catch the river’s Garberator Wave during her first of three finals runs at Wednesday’s U.S. Women’s Freestyle Kayak Team trials, Farrar took a moment to regroup. Her heart was beating uncontrollably beneath her life preserver. She needed to calm the nerves. She needed to drown out all of her surroundings.The underwater pep talk seemingly helped ease the 19-year-old’s anxiety. Farrar regrouped and went on to claim the U.S. team’s third and final spot. “It was tough to start out that way. I needed a moment to focus,” Farrar said Sunday in a telephone interview from Ontario. “I told myself I had to get it together right there.”She faced similar pressures before. In the days leading up to the 2003 World Championships in Austria, Farrar felt so sick to her stomach that she thought she had the flu. And at the 2005 worlds in Australia, she crashed during an attempted front flip, flushed out and wound up eighth. Farrar tried a variety of things to control her nerves. She’s listened to music and even read before runs. Nothing seemed to work. Wednesday, similar stresses overwhelmed her when she entered the water. Her hands shook as she tried to hold her paddle. It was an inauspicious start to the finals for Farrar, who was in third position after the preliminary round when a field of eight was cut to five.In an effort to calm herself, Farrar thought back to the six hours she spent each day in the Ottawa during the past five days. She had proven she was comfortable in these waters. After all, she had been to the river six previous times. And it was in this spot that, in 2002, she made her first of two U.S. Junior National Teams. After she watched the final two competitors of the finals’ first round and heard their scores, Farrar knew what she needed to do to vault herself back into contention.”I just had to get airborn, and add one more simple move and then I could move [into first],” Farrar said. “I wanted to make sure I was safe in that second round. Well, safer at least.”Farrar went out and did just that. After entering the wave, she completed an air blunt – similar to a cartwheel – to the right and pulled her boat completely out of the water, which earned bonus points. After a small spin, Farrar flushed out. The run was hardly perfect, but, by her own admission, Farrar said she had done enough. The judges reiterated that notion when they awarded Farrar first place. Tanya Shuman, the 2005 world champion, took over the top spot soon after. She and Farrar were 1-2 after the second round. Farrar was slated to compete fourth in the third round. The waiting game was underway. As Farrar idled in the nearby eddy and tried to clear her head, the first competitor went and posted a score below Farrar’s. The next competitor entered the Garberator; she flushed out after only one spin. It was official: Farrar’s spot on the team was assured.She was soon congratulated on the loud speaker.”It was a big rush and a relief, that’s for sure,” Farrar said. “It was exciting because I had never thought about competing with the women, competing with people I’ve always looked up to as I started kayaking.”Now, Farrar is standing next to those athletes she grew up watching on freestyle kayaking videos. She is standing next to those athletes she had emulated while honing her skills on the Roaring Fork River. The accomplished junior rider finally proved her mettle at the highest level – on her first try, no less. While she has joined elite company, it’s clear Farrar has yet to fully grasp the weight of her accomplishments. She was awe-struck Sunday while watching 150 of the world’s best freestylers practicing for this weekend’s World Cup event. “There are some amazing boaters here,” a humble Farrar said. “This is a different level of competition, for sure.” The past few years have been a whirlwind for Farrar, who didn’t pick up the sport until she was in sixth grade. In the years that have followed, the Colorado Rocky Mountain School graduate has competed throughout the world and has risen through the ranks of the sport’s best. This weekend she will compete in the discipline’s innaugural World Cup event, kayaking’s attempt to show the Olympic Committee the sport is viable. Because her sophomore year at Dartmouth in New Hampshire begins Sept. 20, Farrar will miss the circuit’s final two stops in New York and Tennessee.Farrar will soon be juggling school work with flat water training sessions on the waters of the Connecticut River. Areas for training are scarce in New England, she said, but she’ll have to make do. Her next run at a world championship, which takes place in May on the Ottawa River, begins in little more than nine months. She’s hoping to make it up to Ontario at least one time before she competes on the sports’ biggest stage.”It’s a 7-8 hour drive from school, but it’ll be worth it,” she said.Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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